Competency in the Next Normal

The world right now is heavy.” ~ Jay Baer

I’ve mentioned, that I’m assigning themes to each month of this year — well, I began in March. That’s when the earth shifted beneath our feet, leaving us with little solid ground.

July’s theme is competence, which is the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.

Last week I discussed the difference between pre-pandemic competence (subject matter expertise, best practices, navigating tame problems) vs. competence in our current disruptive environment (framing issues for action, wayfinding through wicked problems).

Most decision-makers are not wayfinders. And they can be overwhelmed by today’s disruption. Their stock in trade was born as navigators solving well-defined problems with clear pathways. But they struggle as wayfinders — solving yet to be defined, or “shape-shifting” problems. They’re challenged with determining new, unseen paths forward. 

Crisis and Chaos

It’s important, in times of disruption, to distinguish between crisis and chaos.

Crises are reactive — they’re good for gun makers and manufacturers of hand sanitizer. 

Chaos is proactive — this is where decks get reshuffled and innovation occurs.

What worked pre-Q2 2020, won’t necessarily work now. We need to build for a world that won’t be getting close anytime soon. The world requires upgrades, changes, and new systems to emerge better (not the same) on the other side.

In times of crisis, decision-makers want life restored to the last known good. They don’t care about innovation. 

Chaos is a time for wayfinders — those who are comfortable with the idea of multiple destinations, where there may be more than one right answer. 

Building Trust, Gaining Validation

The challenge for wayfinders is that they often require validation from people who matter — decision-makers, bosses, and customers. These folks, though, may not be able to provide that validation. They often can’t see what’s necessary to move forward.

One approach for wayfinders is to frame the vision of the challenge — provide awareness of the shape of the challenge decision-makers face and how it impacts them and their specific audiences (bosses and customers). Use the WIIFM principle (What’s In It For Me) to show decision-makers the magnitude of the challenge.

Then provide clarity about the challenge. Again, point out specific implications for specific audiences. Create a path forward. It may be a “walk a mile to see a mile” algorithm; the key is to illuminate those initial first steps. The audience won’t go along without some sense of where the path is.

Empower the audience with guidance and advice all along the way. Keep them engaged so that they’ll stay on the path and will go along when the path veers unpredictably elsewhere. Get the audience to trust you as the guide.

The Next Normal

Chris Brogan coined the term “the next normal.” His sense is that there won’t be a “new normal.” Normal will constantly and rapidly evolve. So we need to prepare for the next normal, which will rapidly change to another normal. 

Covid has accelerated the disruption of organizations. Chris notes that we may have to abandon what you want to do, to do things people need. Seeing that need and marshalling the resources to meet it is the new competence.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up…

…well, I can’t at least. For the past four weeks, I’ve been watching a series of daily Facebook Live interviews between Brogan and some really smart people on the cutting edge of marketing and entrepreneurship.

What I’ve written today, are key takeaways from about a dozen of these conversations, which you can view those conversations on his YouTube channel at

How About You?

As always, you get the last word. 

Can you help the people who matter in your organization embrace chaos over crisis?

Can you guide the people who matter to innovative solutions for the disruptive challenges they face?

Can you help them see a path forward?

Send me an email at Let me know how you’re doing in this disruption. How are you demonstrating your competence? Where are you struggling?

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If you’re struggling with how to achieve your career goals let’s chat about how I can help. You can use this link to my calendar to schedule the best time to talk.


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